Much has been made about Oscar winner Sandra Bullock's ties to the college town of Austin, Texas, where the star has retreated to avoid the paparazzi's glare since her divorce from Jesse James. But on Tuesday (August 31), Bullock appeared on the "Today" show to discuss her love for New Orleans, where she has found another home.
Bullock, in her first televised interview since her split with James, told host Matt Lauer that the Big Easy has always been a comfortable place for her, somewhere she has gone often to visit, ring in the new year and most recently, the place where she finalized her adoption of son Louis.
But the reason she was there this week was to celebrate the successful rebuilding of the Warren Easton Charter High School, which suffered more than $4 million in damage five years ago this week during Hurricane Katrina. She sat next to Arthur Hardy, a New Orleans Mardi Gras expert and Easton board member, who said he laughed when Bullock called with an offer to help, thinking someone was pulling his leg.
"She found us ... [and] called me on a Sunday afternoon," he said, laughing.
"I like to cold-call people, people who I think are outstanding community members ... how you doin'?" Bullock joked.
Hardy said because he's in the Mardi Gras business, "I deal with crazy people every day. So when she said, 'This is Sandra Bullock,' I said, 'This is Clark Gable,' and I was about to hang up."
Hardy said once Bullock met the kids of the school, it cemented her decision to help out however she could.
Bullock helped raise funds to rebuild the school, which has its own health clinic and close to a 100 percent graduation rate, and she spoke about how Katrina exposed the cracks in New Orleans society around the issue of poverty. "It opened up something that I don't think people knew about or maybe didn't want to see," she said. "But right here under this roof, there are souls and spirits and young people who don't come from any money but carry this extraordinary spirit to override that, suck in every ounce of education that the school provides and get out of here and create a life for them that is beautiful and fulfilling ... let this school be an example of how we don't need to leave anyone behind."
With her adoption of NOLA-born Louie, whom she calls her "little Cajun cookie," finalized, Bullock explained the relief she felt to finally have him all to herself. "It felt like it was time," she said of the long process of adoption, noting that she did not cut any corners or ask for favors based on her fame. "It was nice to have someone say, 'I think you're a fit parent.' "
She also talked about his "healthy" poop schedules, the shift in priorities a child brings to a parent's life and the secret of how she kept Louie's adoption, well, a secret. "It takes good people with integrity," she said, explaining how she was able to hide the bombshell from the prying press even as she was basking in an Oscar win for "The Blind Side."
"Human beings exist that have integrity, that know how to keep their mouth shut. That know the bigger picture, that don't sell out their friends," she said. "Everything passes, they know if they screw up, they're not coming up on the next vacation, I'm not gonna babysit their kids ... I will cut them. I will take them down ... I have friends and family that are filled with massive amounts of integrity. It shouldn't be an oddity."
Though Jesse James and the divorce did not come up and Lauer kept the questions mostly benign, Bullock pointedly used the word "integrity" several times in the interview, perhaps as a not-so-coded statement on her feelings of betrayal in the messy divorce caused by James' multiple infidelities.